Wasilla planners map
TRAFFIC PROPOSAL: Less expensive four-way stops, roundabouts
may also work.
By KYLE HOPKINS
Anchorage Daily News
Published: March 2nd, 2005
Last Modified: March 2nd, 2005 at 03:18 AM
WASILLA -- Drivers shouldering
their way through streets in this city may one day find more
than 20 new traffic lights and four-way stops, even roundabouts.
The city Planning Commission
recommended them, and the City Council will Monday consider whether
to approve the plans as well. The blueprint calls for as many
as five new downtown stoplights.
Drivers will recognize Nelson
Avenue at Lucille Street and Main Street at Swanson Avenue, and
others, among the targeted intersections.
"All of those are intersections
that we and DOT hear about and drive through and realize and
recognize that they're a problem," Wasilla city planner
Sandra Garley said.
The commission recommendation
left open a specific timeline and who would pay for each one.
The state Department of Transportation
and Public Facilities has mapped out prospective sites for stoplights,
but that doesn't necessarily mean they're needed right away.
If the City Council approves the blueprint, it goes to the Transportation
Department, which will use it to plan for new signals along state-owned
roads like the Parks Highway and Bogard Road.
Alaska Night & Day Recovery
& Towing regularly hauls cars from accident scenes around
Wasilla, and owner Gary Jacobsen said Nelson Avenue, in particular,
sees a high number of wrecks at its Main and Lucille intersections.
Jacobsen, who moved to the
Matanuska-Susitna Borough about 15 years ago, described congestion
as a growing hassle in the Valley.
"I've watched all these
new businesses go up, and houses, and I've watched the traffic
go up tenfold," he said.
The Valley population grew
from under 40,000 in 1990 to an estimated 70,000 people last
year, according to the state. Commuters clog the Parks Highway
on weekdays, while caravans of recreational vehicles, snowmachine
trailers and other traffic flood the road on weekends. Left turns
in downtown Wasilla, meanwhile, can be hair-raising.
"We have a traffic problem
that's going to become worse, and something has to be done at
these key intersections," Planning Commissioner Stan Tucker
said in February, when the group passed a resolution supporting
the city's first-ever traffic signal blueprint.
Brad Sworts, DOT central region
area planner, helped introduce the plans to the commission. He
said he's seen tremendous traffic growth in the Valley in the
past two or three years. That has sparked more planning on the
part of local governments like the city of Wasilla.
"They're finding if they
want to have a little bit of control over the growth and not
just have it develop at its own pace in its own way, it's important
to get everybody together and agree on how some of these things
should be done," Sworts said.
Sworts told the commission
that not all the highlighted intersections might need a stoplight.
Less expensive four-way stops and roundabouts may also work.
Roundabouts, now being used
in Anchorage, are circular interchanges designed to keep traffic
moving and are powered by good manners rather than electricity.
Drivers are expected to yield to vehicles approaching on their
A new stoplight can cost between
$500,000 and $1 million, depending on where it goes, Sworts said.
Over the past several years,
the DOT planner said, many developers have called for more stoplights
along the Parks Highway.
Ideally, the signals would
be about half a mile apart. At that distance, they could be wired
so that someone traveling at the speed limit could hit green
light after green light instead of waiting in stop-and-go traffic
while trying to get through town.
The new Wasilla traffic signal
proposal also includes suggestions for future local road connections
along highways. It doesn't specify when signals should be installed.
Today, there are 20 traffic
lights in the Mat-Su Borough, including 11 in Wasilla and three
in Palmer, according to Scott Thomas, DOT regional traffic engineer.
The next lights in Wasilla
will likely include one at Home Depot and two along Lucille Street,
at the Parks Highway and Nelson Avenue intersections.
The department also is designing
signals at Trunk Road and Bogard Road, and in Palmer at the Glenn
Highway and Dogwood Avenue intersection.
According to DOT, other intersections
that are likely spots for signals include:
Main and Swanson streets,
Crusey and Swanson streets,
Parks Highway and Vine Road,
Palmer-Wasilla Highway at Hyer
and Hemmer roads, and
Wasilla Fishhook and Seldon